Name: Ed Driggs
What office are you running for? Charlotte City Council - District 7
Neighborhood: Piper Glen
Political Experience: Served on Charlotte City Council since 2013
Family: Wife Caroline and children Ted and Lili. The kids attended CMS schools and have now graduated from college and are working in computer science and finance.
Work Experience: Career in finance at Bankers Trust Company and Goldman Sachs in New York, Frankfurt and London. Most recent position was as head of healthcare services equity research at Goldman. Retired in 2001.
1) Why are you running for office?
Since retiring from my career as a banker and financial analyst, I have engaged in community service, first by joining boards of directors of non-profit organizations and then, when my kids had both gone off to college, by serving in local government. Each of these activities has allowed me to draw on skills gained during my professional life to give back and serve others in productive ways. Charlotte has exceptional advantages as a city, but it also must deal with many of the same major challenges that large urban areas are facing all around the country. We need good management to maintain our favored position, and my goal is to help us remain vibrant and prosperous in the future.
2) What would be your top priorities if elected?
To continue and build on the work of my first term. My main priorities are to promote smarter and more transparent government, pass budgets that do not include tax increases, and to get a fairer deal for District 7 in the City's taxing and spending decisions. District 7 pays more than its share of the City's property taxes, but infrastructure investment here is lagging behind growth, creating congestion on our roads and in our schools. My background in economics and finance enables me to assess budget and capital spending proposals to determine if they are fair to all citizens and consistent with Charlotte’s long-term financial health.
3) Would you support the city's proposed expansion of its non-discrimination ordinance to include the LGBT community, including a provision that would allow transgender residents to use the bathroom of their choice?
I would not support an ordinance that breaks down the separation of bathrooms and thereby creates privacy issues for women and safety concerns for parents. I have no personal quarrel with the transgender community and do not believe that they constitute a threat to others. However, they are a very small segment of the population, and I do not believe that their preferences and comfort should be placed ahead of those of the much larger number of people who worry about making it easier for predators to enter whichever bathroom they want. In any case, this is not really a "discrimination" issue. Maintaining a biological separation of bathrooms does not inconvenience or stigmatize transgenders or relegate them to second-class citizen status. Any effort that is made to accommodate their needs should be based on a broad based community conversation that reflects all points of view and draws on data and valid comparisons with other cities, not just those on one side of the issue.
4) Do you support the N.C. DOT's plans to add express toll lanes to Interstate 485 in south Charlotte and U.S. 74? Or would you prefer to widen the highways with general-purpose free lanes?
Users of the managed lanes will benefit from the option to reach their destination more quickly by paying a toll. However, it is not apparent to me that restricting the flow of traffic on one lane increases the overall capacity of the highway for the public. I am not a traffic engineer, but I believe that the greatest traffic flow would be achieved with general-purpose lanes.
5) Would you support spending hospitality tax dollars to renovate or rebuild the county owned Memorial Stadium in hopes of the city winning a Major League Soccer franchise?
We already have many needs that have to be met from hospitality tax revenues, and I have not seen any analysis of the costs and benefits of establishing a Major League Soccer franchise in Charlotte. Based on our experience with investments such as Time-Warner arena, I would not favor trying to attract a soccer team.
6) Would you support an increase in the general sales tax to support more transit projects, such as additional miles of streetcar and a commuter train to Lake Norman?
No. The half-cent transit tax that we already have is intended to fund local transit projects, and we have already exceeded it and soaked up other city resources with the wasteful Gold Line. What is needed is not more taxes, but better discipline in prioritizing our transit funding so we can live within our means.
7) There has been a significant amount of redevelopment in neighbors close to uptown, with older, sometimes historic buildings being demolished for new apartments. Would you support more restrictions on tear-downs?
Charlotte's high growth rate will continue to drive up the value of property in locations that are convenient to uptown. This is the normal operation of the free-market economy that has brought our country the prosperity we enjoy today. Standing in the way of market forces brings with it a high cost in terms of lost productivity and growth. This cost needs to be recognized and weighed carefully in policy decisions. It may make sense to invest in preservation of certain historic sites, but trying to create a landscape of artificially preserved and possibly underpriced housing will harm us all in the long run.
8) A goal of the city is to increase affordable housing. In some instances, however, the City Council is asked to approve rezoning requests for low-income apartments, even when an area plan says single-family homes should be built on a site. Should the council follow the area plan recommendations or approve multi-family projects to increase affordability?
Most of our area plans are old and potentially out of touch with current conditions, so we have to be open to making exceptions. The bigger question is whether zoning or other policies should be used to promote housing construction that is different than what would be funded by the private sector. There may be social benefits from changing housing patterns in the interests of dispersion and affordability, but these should be pursued only based on a clear evidence that the benefits outweigh the costs. State law actually prohibits mandatory zoning policies that would control where affordable housing is located, and voluntary incentives that we now have in place have not had the intended effect.
9) Should the city change its guidelines for offering Business Investment Grants for companies considering expanding or relocating to Charlotte?
Our current practices tend to be arbitrary and do not place enough emphasis on the question of whether a business would relocate to Charlotte even if incentives are not offered. Charlotte City Council has on occasion approved incentives for companies that have already made commitments indicating their intention to move here. The circumstances in which incentives play a significant role in a company’s relocation decision are very rare, and we should have a goal of eliminating incentive entirely in favor of creating a business-friendly, low-tax environment that businesses will choose without incentives.
10) What makes you the best candidate?
I will continue to work hard on behalf of all of my constituents in District 7, addressing their issues with City services, ensuring that their views are heard in rezoning decisions, and lobbying for more infrastructure investment to keep up with rapid development in our area. On a larger scale, I am very committed to using my council seat to promote the best interests of Charlotte as a whole. It is important at any level of government that all points of view are represented, and my goal is to be a firm advocate for conservative policies and interests so that our city will continue to be a great place to live for people from all walks of life and political persuasions.
11) What else should voters know about you?
I have lived in Charlotte since 2002 with my wonderful wife Caroline. Our two kids attended CMS schools and have since graduated from UNC and Princeton. I served in the U.S. Army, retiring form the reserves in 1987 as a captain. I enjoy playing guitar, riding a road bike, and reading biographies of American historical figures.